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Missing jet at bottom of sea, grief-stricken families told

Frustration was mounting among relations of the passengers on missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501 yesterday after a second day of searches failed to find any trace of the plane.

The passenger jet - an Airbus A320-200 operated by the Indonesian subsidiary of the Malaysian budget airline - vanished early on Sunday after taking off from the Indonesian city of Surabaya.

It disappeared from radar less than an hour after departing for Singapore with 155 passengers and seven crew.

Twenty-four hours later, Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, said all indications suggested the plane had crashed off the east coast of Sumatra and was now "at the bottom of the sea".

Despite that assertion, officials continued to insist that they were searching for survivors and not just wreckage, as aircraft and vessels from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia expanded their operations.

"Of course we hope they could survive," Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia's vice-president told reporters following a visit to exhausted and increasingly desperate relations who had gathered at an improvised "crisis centre" at Surabaya's international airport.

A search and rescue mission was under way in a corner of the Java Sea, near the island of Belitung, where the plane is believed to have come down, the vice-president told families. The plane and their loved ones would be found, he promised. "There are 30 ships operating in that area and around 15 aeroplanes and helicopters."

"I feel frustrated," said Franky Chandra (32), whose younger brother Gani (30) was on the plane. "Yesterday their excuse was the weather. We expected information today - we expected to know what had happened."

hnews@herald.ie


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